Have you ever wondered whether your rabbit could be bored? Boredom in rabbits is more common than you might think. Those little balls of fluff disguise clever brains that love to be kept busy and challenged. Wild rabbits have evolved as social animals that can solve simple problems to survive. So it’s not hard to see how rabbits kept in small hutches can quickly become bored.
Can rabbits get bored?
Absolutely! Rabbits are intelligent animals. They can learn to follow verbal cues and solve simple problems. They have a great sense of smell, and can find food up to half a mile away from their burrow. Which is in itself a complex feat of structural engineering. Rabbits that aren’t using their natural skills of running, jumping, communicating, smelling, digging and foraging get bored. Just like a hugely intelligent child placed in a class too simple for them will get bored, or a very active child who isn’t allowed to play sports will get bored.
Signs that your rabbit might be bored
Rabbits that are bored are more likely to overeat, as eating gives them something to do. Therefore bored bunnies quickly gain weight. Much like children, they also find repetitive things to do – usually things they shouldn’t be doing! Rabbits might start chewing things that they shouldn’t, destroying their pen, or trying to dig out. They might also start to over-groom themselves to give them something to do.
Why is my rabbit bored?
Preventing boredom in rabbits isn’t difficult – they’re playful creatures that get great enjoyment out of common objects.
Housing not exciting enough
Have a look at your rabbit’s house and run. Rabbits should have lots of space to run and play, or be let out every day to do the same. Providing different levels, different textures, and different views is a great idea – there are some wonderful modified ‘cat trees’ online. They should have somewhere to hide – tunnels work well. You could also consider giving your rabbit something to dig in if they’re not outdoors. A large, deep litter tray filled with soil or sand works well.
Nobody to play with
Rabbits are social creatures. In the wild they live in a colony with many individuals. They have complex ways of communicating, playing and working together. Keeping a rabbit alone is like keeping a human in isolation. The vast majority would like some company of their own kind. And just like people, rabbits can ‘get on’ (or not!) with other rabbits, depending on their personalities. It’s a very good idea to consider adding a second rabbit to your home if you only have one rabbit. A rabbit rescue will be able to advise you on finding a rabbit likely to get on with yours and helping them to bond. Don’t forget that rabbits benefit from some human company too – so spend some time with them each day.
In the wild, rabbits would spend large parts of their day foraging for food. In captivity, a food bowl can be emptied in minutes, leaving hours of time that need to be filled. Hay requires a lot more time than kibble to eat and digest, giving your rabbit something to do. It should be fed as the main portion of food. Rabbits like a bit of variety, but to avoid obesity it’s important to get the balance right. Giving them a small amount of leafy greens such as kale is great, and foraging for rabbit-safe weeds (or growing your own!) can give them a huge variety with plenty of fibre.
Not using foraging skills
Even when they have a good diet, rabbits can be bored if they’re not using their foraging skills. After all – you might find it boring if you were given the same food every night, at the same time, in the same place. Try hiding some of the food so they have to forage to find it. You can use wooden treat blocks stuffed with hay, or buy balls that your rabbit can push around to knock treats from. There are also lots of ideas for DIY food toys online – a ‘washing line’ of treats and weeds allows rabbits to stand up to reach their favourites, and cardboard toilet rolls can be useful for hiding food inside, requiring your rabbit to pull them apart or roll them around to get the hay out.
Not enough toys
Rabbits should have new ‘toys’ regularly – these can be rotated so that bunny doesn’t get bored. Of course, lots of cheap or reclaimed things can be made into ‘toys’ such as cardboard boxes or plastic water bottles – just make sure that bunny isn’t eating them!
Providing entertainment for our rabbits is part of our duty as their owners; it’s important for their physical and mental health that they’re given a variety of things to do. Use some of our ideas here, or search the web for more – there’s lots out there, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or be very expensive. You’re sure to have a happier bunny afterwards!